An independent operator should run Maui County’s power utility — not Hawaiian Electric, according to a study of utility ownership models released on January 15.

The Guernsey group report, which was commissioned by Maui County, comes during a lengthy recess in heavily contested regulatory hearings to decide whether NextEra Energy of Florida will be permitted to go through with its $4.3 billion purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries.

The report concluded that alternatives to MECO can be pursued regardless of whether or not that acquisition goes through.

The end goal of alternative ownership, according to the report, should be safe, reliable and increasingly renewable electricity at a fair price.

The examination of alternatives to for-profit business models has been spreading around the state.

In an effort to follow the path of Kauai, where a cooperative owned by customers purchased the Kauai Electric Co. in 2003, some Big Island residents have formed the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative in the hopes of one day buying the Hawaiian Electric Light Co.

And more recently, a county council committee in Honolulu passed Resolution 15-214, which calls for additional information to assess whether municipal or cooperative public ownership of the power company makes sense for Oahu.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa has suggested that for-profit utilities prioritize rewarding their shareholders over their customers, so alternatives should be sought.

You can read Civil Beat’s coverage of the NextEra-Hawaiian Electric merger and the search for alternatives here.

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